Friday, February 27, 2009

Facebook Free-for-All - Mentoring change of heart


Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to be a guest lecturer at a Systems Engineering class at California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo. It was a chance to give back and help the local professors bring business executives on campus. Whenever I do this at high schools or universities, I provide my unsolicited public service announcement to the student population that most progressive companies now do a social media search during their hiring process.

When I shared the insight I provided with my wife (herself a SVP of HR at USIS), she gave me an interesting perspective. There was no doubt that most companies are now performing a social media job candidate search. But rather than coaching students to clean up their Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, YouTube and Flickr (etc) postings, the right coaching is to teach them how to manage these sources to create the positive image that potential employers are looking for. Make sure it includes accomplishments, trips to academic events, photos of awards and other positive things.

Have you had the opportunity to coach and mentor on this topic? What advice are you giving?

33 comments:

J Wong said...

John,

That is a fantastic thing your doing for people and I applaud you for your efforts.
I think people need to understand that what is going up on these social networking sites can be seen by many and may help or hinder your next career opportunity. It is important that people continue to use these tools to communicate with one another but be aware of the fact that these images stick with you. I am all for transparency and many of my of the people I connect with feel the same way, we have nothing to hide. However, it is a very helpful tip to promote the other activities you’re involved in, such as accomplishments, trips to academic events, photos of awards community involvement just to name a few. I always tell people to be cognizant of what they are putting up on these social networking sites because….. You never know where your next career opportunity may come from.

Dave Perfetti said...

I agree with the messages. I think it speaks to the broader topic of: being aware of signals you send off. In our interactions daily we transmit signals that are heard and interpreted by others. With this new technology, we can connect, communicate and commune much more broadly. This is a good thing, but the bad thing is we can connect, communicate and commune (or not) as well.

Your mother told you to brush your teeth and comb your hair before you leave the house... maybe now mother's advice should include, do not post pictures you don't want everybody to see, don't join groups without a purpose and the list goes on.

Michael Hartwell from Linkedin said...

My experience indicates companies search the social networking sights to see if people have posted stupid stuff. I tell the kids to make sure they realize that prospective employers and HR departments us the social network sites as cheap background checks. PS: if you put the resume stuff on facebook, myspace, Second Life, Youtube, and Flickr you are just a spammer. Linkedin is where you do the biz.

Monica Foyer from linkedin said...

"Actually all the Social Networks are becoming a very popular way to recruit, which is why many companies are utlizing their resources to maximize this. It's part of a very rapidly growing trend so John you and your wife's thoughts on coaching in this area are right on track! Anyone not staying up to speed with the technology is going to simply get left behind when it comes to hiring the top talent. Linked In is only one avenue now a days."

Michael Hartwell said...

The kids are using it for Social Networking. Staying in touch with friends and doing goofy things. Once it is turned into a business recruiting tool the kids will abandon it in an instant. Then the recruiters will have to figure out where they went. Once the site is used for business it stops being social. The networking is just the technology.

Monica Foyer said...

Hi Michael, I actually thought the same thing and got dragged onto facebook via a friend! I am not a kid and have found there to be many people from the baby boomer sector on facebook. It started out with the kids but it no longer is really just "their" site. It is true that it mostly is a social network but it really is building steam on a recruitment effort. I would not underestimate the momentum. I was just at a demo today for a software product that targets job leads being sent to specific people in your facebook network - In addition I have had several requests to be introduced to people for sales opportunities... It is becoming both and will continue to evovle. It will stay as a social network but not only be used for that avenue. .. Hope this has been helpful.

Brian K said...

personally, i feel that Linkedin is best for professional connections. although i agree that the whole person should be represented on FB, especially if you are OK with coworkers friending you on FB.

Gayley Knight said...

"Interesting perspectives. As the "kids" enter the work world, they are bringing change to the corporate culture, thus recruiters and HR and employers will not be taken aback by the social postings on these sites. It is noteworthy that as fads and communication vehicles become mainstream (defined as you wish), some cultures look for other ways to remain below the radar (or sonar to continue the stream metaphor). Being part of the current social revolution is critical on both sides of the employment aisle. Those who want to be employed still need to consider who is doing the hiring. And those doing the hiring need to be part of this tech evolution to bring in the best and brightest for their company."

Monica Foyer said...

Hi Michael,

I actually thought the same thing and got dragged onto facebook via a friend! I am not a kid and have found there to be many people from the baby boomer sector on facebook. It started out with the kids but it no longer is really just "their" site.

It is true that it mostly is a social network but it really is building steam on a recruitment effort. I would not underestimate the momentum. I was just at a demo today for a software product that targets job leads being sent to specific people in your facebook network - In addition I have had several requests to be introduced to people for sales opportunities...

It is becoming both and will continue to evovle. It will stay as a social network but not only be used for that avenue. ..

Hope this has been helpful

Michael Hartwell said...

"Agreed Gayley. But, businesses need to get off the holier than thou attitude that they only hire "top talent" that is "perfect". Note the trouble Michael Phelps got into. Note the stuff that Miss America candidate got burned on. Both had so called friends post pictures on social netowrking sites and business went hysterical. Yet a business executive will spend 1.4 million dollars to remodel an office tank his company, pull the ripcord on a golden parachute. Then blame a 23 year old swimmer, or a 19 year old beauty pagent they are not worthy."

Gayley Knight said...

"I am interested that we are still using business as a dirty word. Wasn't it this "little boxes" syndrome that drove us baby boomers into protest overdrive? Business is only people: good or bad. And people make errors in judgment all the time. And learn, we hope, from their experiences. Those of us in business need to speak out when someone in our organization oversteps. This is, imo, one of the best parts of what this generation is bringing to the corporate culture: transparency."

Michael Hartwell said...

The kids are using it for Social Networking. Staying in touch with friends and doing goofy things. Once it is turned into a business recruiting tool the kids will abandon it in an instant. Then the recruiters will have to figure out where they went.

Once the site is used for business it stops being social. The networking is just the technology.

Paul Copcutt said...

Is not asking them to present the positive image still 'restricting' them in what they post on their pages?

I find that many people see a dividing line between the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn - one for personal and one for business - but of course both are readily searchable just through Google.

Certainly my approach is ensuring that clients are presenting a consistent brand across all media that they touch or use - both on and off line. Any profiles that are out there should present the brand that you want to be known for - if there is a fun side of you then reflect that in your Facebook photo or Twitter avatar.

LinkedIn is the one where there is an expectation of the business persona shining through - but so make it a little personal - there is nothing so boring as reading a bio that tells me nothing about the person and is just a repeat of your resume - that is not going to stand out.

Usually my advice is "If you would not want your mother reading it or it appearing on the front page of your local newspaper do not put it online"

Monica Foyer said...

Agreed- I think it's very important to stay open minded and positive.

Michael Hartwell said...

My apologies. Not meant to be perjorative. But businesss is not in business to be nice.

Ryan Bortel, Ph.D. said...

I would argue that the best way to improve your success rate in hiring decisions is to make sure you actually measure your success rate and make improvements to your selection process accordingly.

At Corporate Psychologists, we just published a longitudinal study evaluating the success rates of hiring managers who use our services as a part of their selection process. You can see a one page summary of our findings at http://www.corporatepsychologists.com/pdf/EffectivenessSummary.pdf

The bottom line? Experts like Peter Drucker estimate that only one in three hiring decisions made by managers is correct. Our study has shown that when hiring managers follow our recommendations, they believe the right decision was made 97.5% of the time. In addition, every employee hired was rated as at least meeting expectations after 6 months on the job. A full 77% were rated as performing above average or excellent.

Please feel free to contact me if you have specific questions about the study or our services. bortel@corporatepsychologists.com

Randy Miller said...

"I think the important point to note is that whether or not you like it, or agree with it, Facebook and the other social networks are evolving and expanding into business networks. And the reason is exactly what Mr. Hartwell noted "Business needs to grow and make a profit" and Facebook (and MySpace and every other social network) is a business. The founders may have started it as a way for their friends to communicate, but it costs money to run these sites, so it has evolved into a business for them, and they are in it to make a profit. Consequently, the users will have to evolve with them or move on. Given the 175,000,000 Facebook users (and growing at 1,000,000 a day per Facebook) I would guess that most users will adapt, not leave. Mmy kids use IM, text, Facebook & MySpace simultaneously -- they did not leave the other areas when business learned how to use them, they just expanded. My expectation is that business and social will co-exist side by side (kind of like a 21st century water cooler discussion)."

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am in SoCal, so glad you were able to provide some thoughts on mentoring the "next" work force. external social networks are here to stay, but underestimated in their influence and longevity. will use your advice. vic

Jarrett said...

The fact that companies are checking up on potential candidates by viewing their Facebook or other online profile is not only helpful to the companies, but the potential employees as well.

My point is that if a company identifies you as not being a fit to their company based on your lifestyle, then you have saved yourself from going and working for a company where you will be unhappy because its culture is not compatible with yours. For example, let's say that my pictures on facebook include a picture of me having a beer with a senior executive of a multinational finance company. A company may have a policy against drinking and decide not to hire me. I would have a hard time working for such a company, not because I am some sort of alcoholic, but because the company obviously does't understand international business and culture around having a beer or glass of wine.

I would also be highly suspicious of a job candidates online profile that looked "too clean."

There are legal concerns brought up by this, as well, which could be discriminatory such as researching if someone is pregnant or trying to be, someone's religious beliefs, race, nationality, dissability, etc.

Time2Shine Consulting said...

"Facebook users have the capacity to restrict what people see on their profile, so really this is only an issue for those that are not yet aware of the permissions they can utilise. Obviously if people are using a social network that they cannot restrict permissions, then John's advice is critical. Facebook also has the capacity for individuals to create their own page, seperate from their profile. I am not aware if this is the case with other social networking platforms. I think that we can educate our students in how to more effectively use Facebook then they can enjoy it in a way that suits their purposes. As an example I have students who have asked to be friends, and I have put them into a 'friends' group that allows me to restrict their ability to see my wall, photos, whatever I decide! I also agree with Paul's post, in that we have LinkedIn as a product to provide our professional face to the electronic world, and in turn, potential employers. It is a very interesting topic!"

Gayley Knight said...

"Randy is right of course that not everyone will migrate away. And there will always be mavens, along with the salesmen and connectors who bring us to where the mavens are before those mavens fly to the next new thing. Yes, all these social sites and other free sites (Amazon and WebMD come to mind) are businesses. The tipping point here is can they support themselves on an advertising model? Given the articles beginning to surface this last few weeks, the answer may well be no, in which case, yes, we will be paying soon for what we have come to value. Social networks, as business, do need to turn a buck. The members of these networks are not functioning in a vacuum. Rather, it is the global reach SNs provide that is changing how business is conducting business and creating a truly global economy. This then gets into a discussion of the digital divide and perhaps even the global digital divide. That is another topic altogether."

Ira Wolfe said...

"We recommend an approach called "the whole person approach" ([www.criteriaone.biz|leo://plh/http%3A*3*3www%2Ecriteriaone%2Ebiz/hmS1?_t=tracking_disc]). It's a balanced approach using a structured behavioral interview, experience/reference/background checks and assessments. Most important is that the entire selection process focus on the requried competencies or potential to grow...or both. In addition, managers need to assess more than just job ability but team and culture fit. We've all seen mediocre employees thrive in a business because they are so well like and aligned so well with the culture that co-workers and even customers refuse to let them fail. But hire to the job only and ignore team and culture fit and the you can just watch everyone waiting for the employee to trip."

Tim at Time 2 Share Consulting said...

Facebook users have the capacity to restrict what people see on their profile, so really this is only an issue for those that are not yet aware of the permissions they can utilise. Obviously if people are using a social network that they cannot restrict permissions, then John's advice is critical.
Facebook also has the capacity for individuals to create their own page, seperate from their profile. I am not aware if this is the case with other social networking platforms.
I think that we can educate our students in how to more effectively use Facebook then they can enjoy it in a way that suits their purposes. As an example I have students who have asked to be friends, and I have put them into a 'friends' group that allows me to restrict their ability to see my wall, photos, whatever I decide!
I also agree with Paul's post, in that we have LinkedIn as a product to provide our professional face to the electronic world, and in turn, potential employers.

It is a very interesting topic!

Alan Langstone said...

Hi John,

Great question.

This is an item I find interesting and think should be taught as "Lesson 1" in any Technology or Computer/IT class at school.

It's really a rule.

i) If you are going to publish any comment which is associated with your name or have a profile that comments can be posted to, on any Interent site then you need to start managing your Internet profile.

I have seen a number of blogs and questions posted regarding the subject of "Do you Google yourself?"

My answer is, if you don't currently Google, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, etc yourself on a regular basis you need to start.

I am a believer in "Information is power" well more, "Information is empowering" and the Internet is a very powerful tool.

Angeline Lim said...

... "Anyone should really be careful of who they invite as friends. I think there should be a clear line between private opinions and professional opinions."

John Farrall, CFA said...

"John, Solid points and some great responses. Sorry for the long response... I have been suggesting to physicians, colleagues, and some MBA students that the combination of search and their digital image are very important to their future success. You make a good point that it is just not about eliminating questionable content, but also having positive content. I completely agree. I use the story of a job candidate who is wearing poor fitting or worn out business attire, handing out a resume with spelling errors on it, or not possessing quality references, versus one who is more "polished" and not committing any, as they say in tennis, unforced errors. Not that one will automatically get the job over the other, but these social sites are clearly being used by talent recruiters to find and eliminate candidates from searches way before a telephone or in-person interview. Thus, just like a business needs to have a web presence, so do you if you have a personal brand and want to be viewed as something other than an hourly commodity worker. What does your online suit, resume, and reference list say about you as a job candidate? Does not having one at all raise any other questions? I agree with many other respondents that LinkedIn seems to have a place as an extension of one's resume and also a way to be connected to thought leaders within your industry-specific focus. I have a link on my resume to my LI profile because I think it helps those with any interest in me go beyond the 1-pager that my resume is designed to be. I also got dragged into Facebook somewhat kicking and screaming and have done everything I can to keep that content restricted to closer family and friends. So far, Facebook is great for having a childhood friend find you, or sharing a funny video link, but I question the value to any real business unless you are designing an applet for FB itself. Physicians, in particular, think I am a bit crazy here in 2009 since their typical referral patterns and patients have nothing to do with a social networks or websites, unless something is done at a hospital level. They start to understand when I ask them how many of their patients likely look up a disease following a diagnosis... Then I ask if they have looked up that disease (their specialty) and their last name in a Google search? Are they proud of the results of that search? Does it help the patient move forward with them, or does it point their patients toward seeking a second opinion by another more "polished" content provider?"

Hemant Kapre said...

"Ultimately whether a networking site is used in a beneficial or harmful manner is solely in the hands of the user. Moreover, one should follow the golden rule of communication in the public domain - be careful while saying anything that you would not be happy with if it appeared on the front pages tomorrow !"

Chris Fohlin said...

"While displaying accomplishments, awards, and other academic achievements is a positive act on Facebook, I believe that the most important thing to do first and foremost, is to clean up all negative aspects of one's profile. These include obscene pictures, videos, wall posts, etc. From there the Facebook (FB) user must monitor their FB profile for any rude wall comments or anyone tagging them in questionable material (pictures, videos, etc.) The FB user may then decide whether or not this is the venue to display their achievements, awards, etc. LinkedIn or resumes may be better suited for displaying these types of personal representation rather than FB, but FB must be at least a clean representation of the person--any achievements and awards would be a bonus."

Jian(Paul) Zhou said...

"Hello John, that is really true these days and I also have the strongest interests over this area. We have a facebook type of community in China focusing on international trade right now. And I would love to exchange ideas and compare notes with you.

Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed. said...

"We live in an age of accountability and networking is all about building relationships before trying to sell. Young people need to understand that their on line postings are public (in most cases) and they reveal their level of maturity by the way they post on sites like Facebook. There was a day, and in some fields it still exists, that a married man was seen as more stable than a single man. A young married woman was a risk because she might and probably would, get pregnant and take time off. Not just to have the baby but with sick children. Fathers were not seen in the same light. Being gay had to be hidden to get many jobs and for many like the military it is "don't ask, don't tell". So an employer who is investing in hiring and training employees is wise to look up their applicants on all sites and to judge accordingly. While it might be illegal to ask personal questions in a job interview it isn't illegal to online search people. I coach my clients of all ages to be careful with their online activity as they can and most likely will be held accountable for it. John, I totally support your position to your audience."

Adam-Taras M. Brunets said...

"John, not exactly direct answer to your questions but good advices that should be considered from an employer perspective when utilizing so called Web 2.0 for HR needs: [http://www.thehrspecialist.com/hrs_articles/employment_law/24793/Lost_in_MySpace__Know_laws_before_searching_web_for_applicant_info.hr|leo://plh/http%3A*3*3www%2Ethehrspecialist%2Ecom*3hrs_articles*3employment_law*324793*3Lost_in_MySpace__Know_laws_before_searching_web_for_applicant_info%2Ehr/IPOh?_t=tracking_disc]"

Moji Oderinde, MBA said...

"I talked to my 19 and 20 year old cousins to think about the images they want to project and use their "MySpace" pages to promote themselves to future companies that might want to hire them after college. It's great they show their creative sides on "MySpace" but not to let such gift become an hinderance in starting their careers."

Cathy said...

it depends on if you discover it first or if the employee tells you about it. Apparently ethics has already discussed a blog on MySpace with a Boeing employee and her manager where the employee made comments about not being busy enough or challenged enough. Instead of discussing this with her manager (never having been in a job where the discussion was two way communication), Ethics in the report had them work out the problem so that there weren't any more negative posts on MySpace (thanks for the link Adam). I was always taught that discretion is the better part of valor.

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